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Ancient Egyptians and Medicine

When it came to medicine, diagnosing the sick, and administering treatment, the ancient Egyptians learned how to make the best out of their surroundings , becoming the first to use techniques still employed in today’s society. In this article, you will encounter information pertaining to the different ways ancient Egyptians administered and created their medications.

According to historical records, ancient Egyptians delivering medical and pharmaceutical advice/treatments would recite incantations during the preparation and administration of medications. This is just one of the ways they followed in their belief that health and sickness was linked to a battle between good and evil.

Diagnosing a Patient

Without the help of heart monitors, thermometers, and other medical gadgets, how did ancient Egyptians pinpoint what was ailing one of their patients? Records show that they were capable of accurately diagnosing disease by evaluating certain symptoms to which they had a corresponding treatment.  Written on ancient papyrus, countless prescriptions have been detailed with corresponding symptoms and diagnoses.

With time, the number of medical prescriptions per each disease or ailment increased. Throughout the Modern Kingdom, dozens of possible remedies existed for a given diagnosis. Depending on the patient, they may receive a treatment that acts quickly, while another may benefit from a more slow-acting remedy. Some drugs were only administered according to the current season. For instance, there was medication to treat eye problems that only worked during the first two months of winter, while another was considered an effective treatment only during the third and fourth months. Another option was available all year round.

Age-Specific Medications

Ancient Egyptians also took into consideration the age of their patients. When choosing an appropriate drug for a patient suffering urine retention, adults were administered a blend of ale sediments, green dates and other vegetables with water, while younger patients received an old piece of papyrus that had been soaked in oil and was applied around the stomach using a hot band. The form of treatments was also based on age. Older patients could take tablets, but infants were given tablets dissolved in a wet nurse’s milk.

Drug Preparations

Drug preparations to cure the sick were a popular method of treatment. The ancient Egyptians relied on plants and herbs for their concoctions, including cumin, fennel, caraway, castor, aloe, and safflower. They used pomegranates in their mixtures. Mineral substances and linseed oil and mineral substances (like copper salts, plain salt and lead) also came into play. Other items used included food and organic materials, such as eggs, liver, human hairs, milk, animal horns, animal fat, honey, and wax.

The quality of a drug was tested after an ancient Egyptian chemist made a preparation. They often kept ‘recipe’ journals, where they would insert notations regarding their progress of a new concoction. Some drugs became more popular than others, especially if they worked wonders on a significant figure of the time period. If it cured one of their kings or another member of royalty, the ancient Egyptians would elevate its popularity.